Young Publishers to Unite at Frankfurt

In Feature Articles by Guest Contributor

By Jon Slack

Jon SlackAt Frankfurt Book Fair this year I will be heading up a major initiative to establish an International Society of Young Publishers.

The idea stems from a UK-based non-profit group called The Society of Young Publishers (SYP), for which I’ve volunteered for three years now. We run speaker meetings, conferences and other networking (social) events for publishers, as well as for students hoping to enter the industry. When it began a full 60 years ago, it was the only way for “young” publishers (i.e. those in their first 10 years of a career) to mingle and talk shop with all the experienced heads of the day.

Today, the SYP is on course for achieving one of its most ambitious programmes in its sixty year history. Nearly 40 events have been organised between Oxford and London in the past 12 months alone. Annual subscriptions, which make the bulk of events financially possible, are at an all time high: the latest head count of 650 members shows more than 300 working publishers and agents, with another 220 students (representing the other major base).

The success of the SYP is predicated on the idea that the new generation of publishers, those with little real practical training, yet determined to know more about the industry, can benefit from the experience of industry veterans. The impact of the SYP on the UK book industry is obvious. Some of the most influential names in publishing have at one stage or another been involved, and continue to lead and shape prominent companies today.

The question now is how can we translate what the SYP does in the UK to the global publishing community?

There are two major components to the international plan. The first is to establish an online global networking platform. The idea was proposed at London Book Fair during the first meeting set up to discuss an international network. 60 publishers and students from 19 countries attended, and many were vocal supporters of any initiative that could connect them more easily with peers.

The second part of the project is a proposal to launch multiple voluntary organisations -– run by young publishers -– in countries around the world that have a strong industry to support them.

Both components are attractive to young publishers because they promote the greater understanding of local markets in other countries, provide career mentoring at a global level, and offer the all-important opportunity to network and share crucial information, such as job vacancies.

Naturally, various hurdles need to be cleared to achieve these goals. Logistics is the biggest: how would this network communicate (if online, by what platform), and who would administrate the network overall? Should the work be done all by volunteers, as is the case today with SYP UK, or sponsored by a publishing company or organization with similar interests and objectives?

In Germany there has already been phenomenal growth of the Junge Verlagsmenschen (The Young Publishing People), which although only a few years old has already expanded into Austria and Switzerland, with some 120 or so volunteers committed to the venture. There are other examples in Denmark, New York and Australia. And there is huge growth potential in the Americas, across Europe, and Asia.

For publishers of any age, there’s a recognizable element of innovation and an eye for new markets that young publishers can potentially bring to the table. There will always be plenty  the more experienced can teach us -– how to edit/produce/publicise/sell a book, for example. SYP events benefit hugely from this sort of give and take. And veteran publishers who attend meetings — not as speakers, but as part of the audience — indicate that events featuring young publishing personalities are something worth participating in and supporting. No one wants the future to pass them by…

With budget cuts keeping junior members of the publishing community from attending events like Frankfurt Book Fair more than ever before, it’s all the more important that a network be established to offset this trend. Publishers in the first few years of their career need to have wider access to contacts and their counterparts in other territories, as well as a platform to explore opportunities in an increasingly globalised and digitalized world of content. If anything, the recession provides a real chance for the whole industry to innovate in this initiative.

As you can see, this kind of network has huge potential, but it needs logistic and financial support from a publishing industry which stands to benefit the most from its success.

If you are going to Frankfurt Book Fair and want to learn more about this endeavour or even get involved in helping out, then clear an hour in your diary on Wednesday 14 October, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., for the “International SYP Meet-up” at the Press Centre Conference Room, Hall 6.2, Frankfurt Book Fair.

Over the hour we will discuss practical measures needed to make the International SYP network a long-term, valuable initiative for the industry. This is a chance to enlist friends, colleagues, and of course, employers!

REGISTER: To attend the Meet-up.

CONTACT: Jon Slack directly for more information.

VISIT: The SYP UK web site for the latest events and announcements from the group.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.